Groban brings more energy, intensity to the stage

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

If the songs on Josh Groban's latest CD, “All That Echoes,” translate especially well to the concert stage, there's a good reason for that.

“We basically wanted it to have a live energy,” Groban says of a goal he and producer Rob Cavallo set for the album. “I had just gotten off of the road and was inspired by everything that came from that energy on stage. I, basically, wanted to put some of that energy in the studio.”

Groban, whose lush music bridges the gap from classical to pop, hasn't suddenly turned into AC/DC. But the more-energetic feel of some songs on “All That Echoes,” along with the involvement of Cavallo, a producer know for his work with Green Day, Fleetwood Mac and the Goo Goo Dolls, has had some people going as far as to say there's a rock element to the album.

That's a bit extreme, Groban says.

“I've got to say that the word ‘rock' never entered our minds, because it just kind of implies a certain kind of grunginess that wasn't necessarily part of what I ever thought was in my wheelhouse,” he says.

“But the idea of using energy and using intensity was always on our minds. I think we realized that there was a way to bring out that intensity in what I do without changing what my lane is and what my voice does, so we wanted the music to be upbeat. We wanted it to be rhythmic.”

For now, Groban's focus is on the North American leg of his tour, which comes to Consol Energy Center on Nov. 2.

He's shaking up his approach this time out by performing a career-spanning set of material in the round.

He thinks putting the stage in the center of arenas, with the audience on all sides of the stage, brings more intimacy and spontaneity to his performance.

“When you're playing with the traditional stage setup, you've got your front 10 rows, and then you've got nosebleed seats everywhere,” Groban says. “It's a lot of fun to look out on. It's a lot of people. But it's not necessarily the best experience for everybody in the audience. So, putting the stage in the middle means there really are no nosebleed seats.

“Basically, there are four front rows and the seats won't have to go very far back. So, it's, I think, the best of all worlds, energy-wise, for us.”

Despite Cavallo's involvement, “All That Echoes” isn't a drastic departure from earlier platinum-selling Groban albums such as his 2001 self-titled debut, 2003's “Closer” or 2006's “Awake.”

For the project, Cavallo assembled a top-flight cast of musicians to help bring the songs from “All That Echoes” to life. The twist is they came from both the rock and classical worlds. Guitarist Tim Pierce (Madonna, Dave Matthews), bassist Chris Chaney (Jane's Addiction) and drummer Matt Chamberlain and Abe Laboriel Jr. (Paul McCartney's band) were paired with string players such as harpist Gayle Lavant and violinist Charlie Bisharat, adding a bit of rhythmic punch (especially to more-energetic tracks, like “Brave,” “Below The Line” and “False Alarms”) to the lush and graceful melodicism that has always characterized Groban's music.

Groban also pushed forward as a songwriter, contributing to seven songs, while also pulling from the pop world for songs like “Falling Slowly” (by Glen Hansard), “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” (by Jimmy Webb) and Stevie Wonder's “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever”), while “Sincera” and “E Ti Promettero” are more in the classical/Italian vein.

Having finished the album and being thrilled with the results, Groban says he expects to work with Cavallo again and calls the collaboration a highlight of his career.

“I feel the same way starting to work with Rob that I did when I started to work with David Foster,” Groban says. “I was kind of feeling ... this is somebody who really shares a vision and is somebody who is so multi-dimensional, he's so knowledgeable about the orchestral world, he's knowledgeable about all different styles of music. ... We have at least one more (album) under us, and we'll see where we go from there.”

Alan Sculley is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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